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Freedman, N. (1997). On Receiving The Patient's Transference: The Symbolizing And Desymbolizing Countertransference. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 45:79-103.

(1997). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 45:79-103

On Receiving The Patient's Transference: The Symbolizing And Desymbolizing Countertransference

Norbert Freedman

This is an empirical study of the therapist's experience of the patient, delineating the boundaries between empathy and constructive and destructive forms of countertransference. The unique step was taken of focusing a video camera on the therapist in order to trace the therapist's nonverbal behavior during listening. The same therapist was observed first in a “not-so-difficult” and then in a “difficult” session; the sessions could then be distinguished along dimensions of rhythmicity or arrhythmicity of nonverbal behavior. These

observations suggested three modes of experiencing the patient: empathy marked by rhythmicity, a symbolizing countertransference marked by a transitory arrhythmicity, and a desymbolizing countertransference marked by continuous arrhythmicity. The congruence of these formulations based on direct observation of therapist behavior and ones derived from retrospective reconstructions of analysts in sessions (Schwaber, Jacobs, and Lasky) was explored and was found to enhance the validity of the proposed formulations.

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